cover image Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

Catherine Reef. Clarion Books, $16.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-395-68705-5

Even readers already familiar with Walt Whitman (1819-1892) will find much to ponder in this forthright biography. Reef (Henry David Thoreau) traces the poet's life, from his unsettled childhood in New York's Long Island and Brooklyn to his declining years in Camden, N.J., also taking note of the anger and the admiration elicited by his work. The poems themselves are thoughtfully quoted, interpreted and placed in the context of biographical events. Readers may marvel that a knockabout journalist who left school at age 11 could have developed the genius to radically alter the form and content of American poetry. Reef, wisely, offers no answers to that enigma; she simply raises the question and points out that it continues to puzzle scholars. Approximately 70 photographs and engravings enhance this sturdy volume. Ages 9-up. (Apr.)